Nairobi reacts to foreigners in two completely different ways. In the first instance, a foreigner will feel welcomed and happy in Nairobi. They will sing Nairobi praises to anyone and everyone who will listen. In the second instance, a foreigner will lose their wallets, laptops, bags, shoes and documentation in the first week of being in Nairobi. It may or may not go downhill from there. Foreigners who plan on staying though, need to develop the ability repel the latter situation. Below are tips for Nairobi renting that foreigners could benefit from.
Moving to a whole new country requires a lot more research than merely moving to a new county. You have to learn about the culture in Kenya and Nairobi. You should keep in mind that you will not have a true sense of the culture until you have been here at least a week. Peruse the blogs for some experiences just to have some sort of idea of what it is like.
You should also do your research on the neighborhoods in Nairobi. Find out which neighborhoods would suit you and your pocket. Find out how much you would expect to spend on rent and utilities as well as the cost of living. If you do not have a job set up you should set some money aside to tide you over as you search for a job. Spend a lot of time on this as it will prepare you for Nairobi living.
Do you have a friend? Would they be willing to take you around the city to see neighborhoods and find a house for you? If this is your first time in the city, you really will need a friend. If you do not have one, you can try and find a professional guide. You should also make use of google maps. You will always be able to find your way around the city. The guide is just to warn you to put your phone away if you are driving through Muthurwa. While you are at it, familiarize yourself with the public transport system pretty early in the game.
Rental or Airbnb
You will need to weigh between renting a house independently or going through Airbnb. Renting might be cheaper and allow a little more freedom. The alternative will free you from the nuisance of managing a house. Would you want to live in the Airbnb during your entire stay in the country? Also how long are you staying the country? Would the owner be amenable to having you there for that long?
If you decide on the renting a house, it is best if you get temporary quarters before you commit to a particular rental. It could be the Airbnb, a hostel or a hotel. This time in the temp quarters will allow you to learn Nairobi properly as well as give you ample time to find a neighborhood that will feel like home for you. During this time you will also learn a little more about the people of Nairobi and maybe develop a bit of a Nairobian sense.
This is only an issue if you are not moving here permanently. There are several options in terms of the furnishings. You could get a furnished apartment. This is going to be expensive as a two bedroom furnished apartment could go for as much as 60,000 shillings. You could rent furnishings. This will take some research to find. You could also buy second hand furnishings. Be careful about these two options as you could get yourself a handful of bedbugs. You could also buy then sell them later when you have to move back. This last option is a great one especially if you are staying for a very long time.
Learn the Lingo
Depending on where you live and how long you live here, you might need to learn the local lingo. It does not have to be good enough to speak it but just enough to get what is being said. This will be especially important if you will be using public transport and really delving into Nairobi. It will not hurt to learn a few conversational bits of Swahili either. Kenya is a high context culture, something that you should keep in mind as you prepare to move here and learn to communicate effectively.
Beware of Cons
Before you move here, you should know about the cons in this town. There are so many ways in which you can be conned. In most cases, you will not see it coming as it will happen in a very creative fashion. However, good news is that after the first time you will get better at spotting the con. You might even get away with coning a con right back. For this reason, you should be very vigilant and attentive when you are house hunting. Just by being a foreigner, you could attract a lot more malice than other Nairobians.
Familiarize yourself with MPesa as this is how you will be required to pay for most things including rent and utilities. Read about the basics of renting in Nairobi for everyone like keeping some water in storage. Talk to people and get some Nairobi renting hacks to live by. Try to keep the commute as short as possible. Check traffic updates online when you have to travel. Keep your rent below or equal to a third of your income. Keep the caretaker close as they could make your life easier. Take extra precautions as far as securing your unit goes.
Renting in Nairobi will definitely be a learning experience for you. Keep an open mind. Make friends. Get out and see the city. Get out of the city and see whatever is beyond the concrete jungle. Welcome to Nairobi!